Xi’s ‘final purge’ ahead of Chinese Communist Party Congress

Xi’s ‘final purge’ ahead of Chinese Communist Party Congress


President Xi Jinping has launched a “final round of purges” ahead of a major Chinese Communist Party congress and carried out his long-running anti-corruption campaign to cement his claim to power, analysts say.

When he became leader a decade ago, Xi vowed to root out dishonest officials, both high-ranking “tigers” and low-ranking “flies.”

More than 1.5 million officials have been fined since then, according to the Party Disciplinary Board, and China’s ranking on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index has improved.

But critics say the campaign is also a thinly veiled political tool that has helped Xi eliminate his rivals – and more heads have rolled in the run-up to this year’s congress.

According to party information, around 1,100 officials have been caught in the party manhunt since the beginning of this year.

Among them are former Deputy Minister of Public Security Sun Lijun and former Minister of Justice Fu Zhenghua, who will now spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

“This latest round of purges, masquerading as an anti-corruption campaign, will ensure Xi has tighter, if not absolute, control over personnel and policy issues (at Congress),” said Willy Lam, a political analyst at the Chinese University of China Hong Kong.

Xi is widely expected to secure a third term as party leader at the meeting, turning on its head successor norms that have been in place since the 1990s.

“Despite all signs that his grand goal of a third term is all but guaranteed, Xi remains paranoid about his control over appointments to key decision-making bodies within the party,” Lam added.

– “Damage to Party unity” –

Once a trusted lieutenant of Xi, Sun oversaw security in Hong Kong during months of unrest in 2019 and was even dispatched to Wuhan at the start of the Covid pandemic.

However, he reportedly fell out of favor because of his political ambitions and was officially accused of “seriously damaging the unity of the party”.

Sun admitted on national television in January to taking $14 million worth of bribes hidden in boxes of what appeared to be seafood.

Other suspected members of his “political clique”, including Fu and three former police chiefs, were also arrested and given harsh sentences.

“Sun Lijun’s case is linked to Xi’s absolute control of the security apparatus, which is essential to his political agenda,” said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington.

“It also sends a strong message to anyone who has dissenting views on Xi’s leadership.”

The policies of the Chinese Communist Party, despite the facade of unity, have always been deeply partisan, with different groups vying for influence.

“There are some who are anti-Xi but very pro-Party. They don’t like where the party is going under him,” Alex Payette, chief executive of consulting firm Cercius Group, told AFP.

Congress offers Xi an opportunity to lessen that threat by promoting close allies to positions on the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, the pinnacle of power.

– ‘Absolute Loyalty’ –

More than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, Xi has developed a strong personality cult that requires children as young as 10 to take classes in “Xi Jinping Thoughts.”

And according to Wu Muluan, a Chinese policy expert at the National University of Singapore

he has used the anti-corruption campaign to transform the Communist Party “from a collective dictatorship to a personalist dictatorship.”

He has already taken the party’s three critical power centers – the military, the propaganda machine and the internal security apparatus – under his wing, rooting out dissenting voices and replacing them with his protégés.

For example, recently appointed Public Security Minister Wang Xiaohong has known Xi since at least the mid-1990s, when they both worked in southeastern Fujian Province.

“Xi seeks out people who have shown him absolute loyalty for decades,” Wu said.

Surrounding himself with allies heading into his next term has become even more important given the significant political headwinds Xi faces, including a struggling economy, deteriorating ties with the United States and a strict zero-Covid policy, which has accelerated China’s turning inwards from the world.

“The anti-corruption map is a powerful tool for Xi to send a message to the still significant number of opponents in the party’s upper echelons,” analyst Lam said.

“Any opposition could mean jail time…or at least ugly harassment from the anti-graft agencies like 24-hour surveillance.”

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